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MPEG LA Extends H.264 Royalty-Free Period

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the now-how-much-would-you-pay? dept.

Media 260

Sir Homer writes "The MPEG LA has extended their royalty-free license (PDF) for 'Internet Video that is free to end users' until the end of 2016. This means webmasters who are registered MPEG LA licensees will not have to pay a royalty to stream H.264 video for the next six years. However the last patent in the H.264 portfolio expires in 2028, and the MPEG LA has not released what fees, if any, it will charge webmasters after this 'free trial' period is over."

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From TFS (2, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010662)

However the last patent in the H.264 portfolio expires in 2028, and the MPEG LA has not released what fees, if any, it will charge webmasters after this 'free trial' period is over.

I would SERIOUSLY hope there are new protocols by 2028...

Re:From TFS (4, Informative)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010678)

By 2016 would be better.

Re:From TFS (2, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010710)

By 2010 would be better.

Re:From TFS (1, Informative)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010752)

You know, Theora video doesn't suck [xiph.org] .

Re:From TFS (5, Informative)

jeanph01 (700760) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010850)

I copy pasted this info from here: http://lwn.net/Articles/372416/ [lwn.net]

These three Nokia patents look like they could be enforced against Theora:

http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=Ic0CAAAAEBAJ [google.com]
http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=ieIVAAAAEBAJ [google.com]
http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=zGWBAAAAEBAJ [google.com]

Re:From TFS (0, Offtopic)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010982)

The devil you say!

And even if sucked (5, Insightful)

DrYak (748999) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010916)

You know, Theora video doesn't suck [xiph.org] .

And even if it sucked, that wouldn't matter anyway :
most of video today consist of short snips on social websites of dancing cats filmed with a camera phone with crappy sensors and low quality MJPEG compression.

Arguing that Theora would need more bits to achieve the same quality as other codec is akin to arguing that Youtube should spend more bits to be better faithful to all the compression artifacts.
Theora opponents say that, for the same bits bandwidth, Theora video is blurrier. I'm saying that this blur won't hide any critical detail. It will only blur out the noise from the camera phone's crappy sensor and from the MJPEG'S 50% compression. I personally *can* live without them, if it is what it takes to have a open free/libre standard.

Re:And even if sucked (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011074)

most of video today consist of short snips on social websites of dancing cats filmed with a camera phone with crappy sensors and low quality MJPEG compression.

...and TV shows and movies.

Besides, have you seen the output from decent consumer-grade camcorders recently?

Re:And even if sucked (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31011352)

Besides, have you seen the output from decent consumer-grade camcorders recently?

Not very often, no. Mostly because the vast majority of the videos made publicly available on the internet (that is, the ones we'd actually see) are short snips on social websites of dancing cats filmed with a crappy camera phone with crappy sensors and low quality MJPEG compression, like the GP said, and most people don't film dancing cats with the same attention to detail and memorable preservation that they do for things they would use their digital camcorders for.

Why do sprite comics still exist? I mean, have you seen what's possible from even cheap, low-end drawing tablets?

Re:And even if sucked (4, Insightful)

delt0r (999393) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011138)

At the lower bit rate end of the spectrum Theora is not bad, and would be competitive if it had the same development effort that the "Open Source" H.264 codec encoders get. Personally I think both theora and h.264 look like complete crap at you tube bandwidths.

However Theora is working. Its mere existence is forcing MPEG LA to address license concerns. If Theora wasn't around, we would even be having a serious "open codec" debate, we be asking how much is licensing html 5.0 going to cost.

Re:And even if sucked (5, Interesting)

Kohlrabi82 (1672654) | more than 4 years ago | (#31012006)

At the lower bit rate end of the spectrum Theora is not bad

This is completely wrong, Theora is *escpecially* bad at low bitrates, I recently made a small comparison of Theora/Thusnelda and H264/x264 encoded 1080p videos, both looked very watchable at 4Mbit, but at 2Mbit problems for Theora/Thusnelda started, and at 1Mbit it was just plain awful. 2Mbit Theora/Thusnelda couldn't nearly reach H264/x264 quality at 1Mbit.

Re:And even if sucked (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011332)

obligatory: Abstraction
http://www.xkcd.com/676/ [xkcd.com]

Re:And even if sucked (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011898)

most of video today consist of short snips on social websites of dancing cats filmed with a camera phone with crappy sensors and low quality MJPEG compression.

By volume, sure. By amount of time people spend watching? I'm not so sure. The two places I mainly stream videos from are iPlayer and the company I rent DVDs from. Both of these have DVD-quality or better sources. YouTube comes a distant third after these two. These aren't short clips, they're episodes of TV shows or films, so 30 minutes is about the minimum length and 45 minutes to two hours is fairly common.

Re:From TFS (2, Interesting)

Fahrvergnuugen (700293) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010948)

Until the patent submarine surfaces, then it's really going to suck!

Re:From TFS (2, Insightful)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010950)

Device support for Theora does suck. And for me, that's the deal breaker.

Yes, yes, I know there's $obscure_bad_interface_linux_based_device that supports Theora and Ogg.

Noname brand player (5, Informative)

DrYak (748999) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011278)

Yes, yes, I know there's $obscure_bad_interface_linux_based_device that supports Theora and Ogg.

Go to the nearest electric/computer parts shop.
Go to the shelf where all the multimedia player/harddisk enclosure are. You know : black box, you buy one, optionally slap a harddrive into it, optionally plug an ethernet cable and put it under the TV set (Kiss, Tvix, etc.).

Chance are :
- almost all of them will run some (hidden and un-advertised) Linux kernel under the hood.
- almost all of them will support Ogg Vorbis and FLAC (not always advertised)
- a huge proportion can do software Theora decoding (Theora is an older and much simplier codec. It requires less resources than H264 and can be done in software or DSP/SIMD assisted software). It's not always advertised, it might only come in a firmware upgrade. But lot's have it.
- not all of them will have painfully ugly interfaces

So the situation is a bit more easy than "there's one single model which plays it". Lots of asian noname devices manufacturer are implementing it, because it comes for free and because they can thus add an additional bullet point to the feature list.

Want hardware support ?
- There exist open theora core [xiph.org] .

Don't want to make a custom chip ?
- There also exist a GPGPU implementation.
Given that ARM and both PowerVR (maker of the GPU core on the hyper-popular OMAP chipsets) and nVidia (maker of the GPU core on the upcoming Tegra) are members of the OpenCL committee, you can expect that hardware accelerated OpenCL-written video codecs will be the solution for lots of future devices.

The situations is similar as with Ogg Vorbis a few years before :
- it's doable.
- big brand doesn't do it, yet. because their lasy.
- noname brand are starting to pick it up. after a couple of years it will have a huge market share among the brandless device, to the point that anything except Apple's device can play it.

Re:From TFS (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011110)

This comparison shows that Theora is close to Google's speed-optimized H.264 encoder at 500 kbit/sec. Not better. The author of the page tries to confuse the issue, but admits, "In the case of the 499kbit/sec H.264 I believe that under careful comparison many people would prefer the H.264 video."

Re:From TFS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31011586)

The results are quite different if you compare Theora to a good H.264 encoder like x264.

Some recent comparisons:
Videos [live.com] Difference especially noticeable on the "The Island" trailer because of the high motion scenes.
Metrics [multimedia.cx] Animated content. Relatively new.
Metrics [mit.edu] By one of the Xiph guys. A little older. Huge lead for x264.

HTML5 is a dangerous "standard". (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31011778)

Yeah, but it's not encumbered by patents and other legal bullshit.

Keep in mind that the HTML5 effort is much unlike the past HTML and XHTML standardization efforts. While the past efforts were driven by the W3C, HTML5 is a product of Google, Apple, Opera, Mozilla and other corporations, masquerading as a "community effort" just because their browsers are open source.

With HTML5 being implemented to suit the needs of media distribution companies like Apple and Google (ie. YouTube) who have shown a propensity towards using DRM and undocumented formats, it's not surprising at all that a better and much more open video standard would be passed over in favor of proprietary, encumbered "alternatives".

HTML5 will be one of the worst things to hit the Web in years. Sure, it'll let some folks create dinky demos using the canvas element, but it'll also be the platform through which the Googles and Apples of the Internet force DRM and proprietary media technology on basically everyone, thanks to it HTML5 being a "standard".

Re:From TFS (3, Insightful)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011006)

H.265 [wikipedia.org] has an estimated release of 2012. We're just trading on MPEG LA standard for another, but they may offer free licensing of it for a while as well. Personally, I don't think they should be able to charge content providers squat. They can sell users an encoder and charge for decoders in products, but what anyone does after that shouldn't be any business of the MPEG LA.

New protocols for 2028? (1)

H4x0r Jim Duggan (757476) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011104)

Problem is, do you think that protocols using only ideas from before 2008 will be optimal for whatever hardware and software systems we'll be using in 2028?

While you're thinking about that, please support campaigns to abolish software patents [endsoftwarepatents.org] .

Re:New protocols for 2028? (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011228)

No need to try and recruit me...I despise software patents already ;-)

Firefox Bait (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31010668)

The trial period will need to last just long enough to get it adopted as the HTML5 standard.

Hopefully, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31010680)

We'll be using free codecs by then.

Re:Hopefully, (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010846)

Unfortunately I don't have much confidence of that happening, gif still remains pretty common despite how long the superior png format has been arround.

With video and audio things are even worse with major vendors outright refusing toe support the unencumbered option (unlike png which has wide support).

Personally I think there is more chance of internet bandwidth increasing to a level where we can revert back to a format where the patents expire sooner than there is of a new unencumbered format taking hold.

Re:Hopefully, (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010924)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that was due to the extremely short window between when compuserv started going after gif offenders and when the patent for gif actually ran out. IIRC, png wasn't even supported in IE until after the patent on gif ran out, further hampering its adoption.

Re:Hopefully, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31011062)

Nitpick.

UNISYS held the patent. Not Compuserve.

Re:Hopefully, (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011996)

png wasn't even supported in IE until after the patent on gif ran out
I'm pretty sure it was supported in the sense that non-transparent images and palleted images with binary transparency were supported even as far back as IE4 long before the patent ran out.

Full support took a lot longer (it was finally added in IE7) and unfortunately while that wasn't really a problem for those replacing gifs with pngs misunderstandings and exaggerated claims about it almost certainly did impact png adoption.

Re:Hopefully, (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011016)

Luckily, patents are not(yet) subject to the absurd lengths given to copyrights, so it is possible to move to free formats simply by standing still.

My understanding is that, somewhere in the 2006-2008 region, all credible .gif patents had finally expired. The format still sucks compared to .png; but it doesn't have to pay unisys for the privilege.

Data transfer? (3, Interesting)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010716)

How does a patent license allow you to charge for transmitting data over the Internet? I get that the encoder requires a patent license, and the decoder requires a patent license, but sending an encoded file over the Internet? That's just absurd.

Re:Data transfer? (5, Insightful)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010754)

Software patents? That's just absurd.

Re:Data transfer? (4, Informative)

BZ (40346) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011614)

The H.264 patents are method patents, not software patents.

Re:Data transfer? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010884)

Decoding per byte. It's a simple rental model, like the old processor charges in the 60s & 70s on mainframes.

Re:Data transfer? (4, Informative)

Looce (1062620) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011180)

How does a patent license allow you to charge for transmitting data over the Internet?

Simple: it doesn't. However, it's a good measure of how much revenue MPEG LA expects you to be bringing in from your use of their standards, and as such is a nice way to scale up licensing fees according to your revenue.

Think of it as a way of implementing this rule: You give us X % of the revenue you bring in from your use of our standard, and in exchange, you can use our standard. If the main use of your company is to deliver solutions based on our standard, this will be X % of your revenue. If you only make incidental use of our standard, your license is going to cost you lower.

(And, of course, if you find something else that's good enough for your purposes and is free or costs less than our standard, you're free to use it.)

Nice (4, Insightful)

jvkjvk (102057) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010776)

What a charming business model.

Oh well, I guess webmasters could have always used something else, right?

It's particularly nice that web masters are giving billing information 6 years early, so the company doesn't have to do much to track down the first round of suck^H^H^H^H customers to bill them for use.

There's nothing like getting your IP embedded deeply into everyones processes (with their complete acknowledgement of that fact) and then seeking rent against the cost of changing it.

I would expect that many companies don't have migration plans in place, I don't know, not my business.

Regards.

Re:Nice (1)

qoncept (599709) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010818)

And all while giving you an additional 6 years on your contingency plan for a technology that will be obsolete by the time you could potentially be charged for it. How do they sleep at night?

Re:Nice (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010900)

Google seems to be changing video on Youtube to use HTML 5 pretty quickly. Why can't other people?

Re:Nice (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010918)

Google seems to be changing video on Youtube to use HTML 5 pretty quickly. Why can't other people?

I don't think Google would let them...

Re:Nice (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010978)

Google seems to be changing video on Youtube to use HTML 5 pretty quickly. Why can't other people?

Because they feared the charges in 2011.

Now they can fear the charges in 2016 instead.

Re:Nice (1)

glop (181086) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011028)

They are using H.264 to do the encoding. I think they are using the free trial and that might be why they are buying On2. They want so be sure that Youtube can free itself from H.264 some day.

Re:Nice (3, Informative)

NNKK (218503) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011076)

You're a bit confused. HTML 5 is a markup language, not a codec. YouTube's HTML 5 site is still in H.264, it's just not using Flash to play it.

Re:Nice (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011672)

Not all of it is H.264. Some of it appears to be Theora or some other codec that Opera supports natively.

I was thinking that maybe the stuff posted to Google Video was encoded in Theora and it gets cross-posted to YouTube, while the stuff posted directly to YouTube gets encoded in H.264, but thats just a guess (it could also be that it doesnt bother to covert theora encoded uploads of the correct size)

Re:Nice (3, Informative)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011820)

I was thinking that maybe the stuff posted to Google Video was encoded in Theora and it gets cross-posted to YouTube, while the stuff posted directly to YouTube gets encoded in H.264, but thats just a guess

Don't guess [diveintohtml5.org] . In HTML5:

To support Safari, you have to use H.264 (OK, you can add Theora support to Quicktime, but let's assume very few users do this, and nobody wants to be the arsehole site that forces them to do so)
To support Mobile Safari, you have to use H.264
To support Firefox, you have to use Theora. (hence YouTube currently doesn't support HTML5 for Firefox)
Chrome handles both formats.
Opera: definitely handles Theora, not sure about H.264

To be viewable in all HTML5 browsers, you're going to have to encode twice. The Theora encoding/streaming is going to be free. The H.264 encoding/streaming is going to be gratis until 2016. But once you've started, it's going to be awfully difficult to stop.

Re:Nice (4, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010928)

Six years? Six years is a very long time in CODEC evolution. Six years makes computers sixteen times faster. Network connections will be much faster. By 2016, I doubt there'll be many computers around that can't play back VC-2 (based on Dirac, patent free) in use and VC-2 hardware acceleration, which is just starting to be deployed, will be much more widespread. Remember the CODECs we were using six years ago?

MPEG-1 didn't last six years as a standard for Internet video. Neither did RealVideo. Neither did Sorenson (in QuickTime or Flash containers). I'd be surprised if H.264 does.

Re:Nice (5, Insightful)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011066)

In 6 years time, there'll be an awful lot of iPhones/iPads (and their descendants) in the wild.

Expect H.264, and maybe some other patent-encumbered standards, to be the only video format a web site can use in order to be viewed on these devices.

The options for video websites in 2016? Pay up, or abandon iPhone/iPad users. Plus who knows how many other closed platforms.

Re:Nice (1)

iainl (136759) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011252)

In 6 years are bound to add something else to Quicktime. If that then isn't supported by the iPad and iPhone, I'd be shocked.

Re:Nice (3, Informative)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011522)

Why would they?

Apple will be raking in the royalties when MPEG LA (of whom they are members) start charging.

Re:Nice (0, Troll)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011336)

Please, dude... I know you loooove Apple more like your (non-existing? this is /. after all ;) girlfriend. And that’s all good. Do whatever makes your happy.
But please keep it down with using the Apple brand name for every type of product out there. Ok? :)
I hate to tell you, but: Reality does not equal Apple! ;)

You could just as easily have said the factually correct thing:
In 6 years time, there’ll be an awful lot of smart phones / mobile computers in the wild.

Frankly, I doubt that even in the US many people will still care about Apple that much in 6 years, when the reality distortion bubble (the one that lets their products look like they could compete) will become its first gaping holes.
And that is not meant as as offense. Even though religious people will see it like that anyway. (See Mohammad caricatures.)

Re:Nice (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011624)

Please, dude... I know you loooove Apple more like your (non-existing? this is /. after all ;) girlfriend. And that’s all good. Do whatever makes your happy.

Way to completely miss my point that Apple's choices in the client world -- where they do have a lot of influence -- will be forcing the hands of web site owners. For this reason I do not "looooove" Apple.

But please keep it down with using the Apple brand name for every type of product out there. Ok? :)
I hate to tell you, but: Reality does not equal Apple! ;)

You could just as easily have said the factually correct thing:
In 6 years time, there’ll be an awful lot of smart phones / mobile computers in the wild.

Currently Safari Mobile has ~60% of the mobile browser market. [getclicky.com] . Even if that drops to, say, 20%, do you reckon web sites would feel empowered to drop H.264 support, if that meant abandoning those users?

Plus, as I said, other popular mobile platforms are just as likely to be closed and locked down to H.264

Re:Nice (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31011414)

Pay up, or abandon iPhone/iPad users.

Its 2016. Why haven't you upgraded to the iPhone 5GSXFi?

Re:Nice (4, Informative)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011594)

The options for video websites in 2016? Pay up, or abandon iPhone/iPad users. Plus who knows how many other closed platforms.

It's much more than just Apple's portable devices; they just happened to include H.264 first. H.264 decoders exist in:

  • all Blu-ray players
  • many new PCs, including just about all with NVIDIA or ATI GPUs and many Intel GPUs
  • nearly all HD satellite receivers, and many countries' terrestrial HD receivers (Europe)
  • IPTV systems
  • portable media players / cell phones with video players, including Android and BlackBerry devices
  • videoconference systems

Re:Nice (3, Informative)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011886)

Though some of those are relevant too, the important point about the Apple devices is not so much that they support H.264, but that they don't support anything else (at least, nothing else relevant to the Web)

Outside of the Web, I care less. The Web is meant to be somewhere where creating/publishing is free to all (ignoring physical hosting costs).

Re:Nice (3, Informative)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#31012138)

Though some of those are relevant too, the important point about the Apple devices is not so much that they support H.264, but that they don't support anything else (at least, nothing else relevant to the Web)

Most of these devices have the same limitations as Apple devices; they decode a few things in hardware and nothing else:

  • all Blu-ray players: support MPEG-2, VC-1, and H.264
  • many new PCs, including just about all with NVIDIA or ATI GPUs and many Intel GPUs: have at best MPEG-2, VC-1, and H.264 hardware decoding support
  • nearly all HD satellite receivers, and many countries' terrestrial HD receivers (Europe): support MPEG-2 and H.264
  • IPTV systems: support H.264 usually
  • portable media players / cell phones with video players, including Android and BlackBerry devices: support H.263 and H.264
  • videoconference systems: support H.263 and H.264

Apple devices use the same hardware decoders as other companies do.

Re:Nice (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#31012036)

...Plus who knows how many other closed platforms.

It's not really about "closed platforms". iPhone/iPads have hardware for decoding h264. They don't have hardware support for Theora.

Re:Nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31011274)

I'd be willing to bet that in six years time, computers will be only twice as fast (per dollar).

Re:Nice (1)

Sir Homer (549339) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011540)

It's worth noting none of those formats where ever pushed as an Internet standard. We still use JPEG/GIF even though there are better formats out there for over a decade. Sometimes being "industry accepted" is more important then being "the best".

Re:Nice (1)

BZ (40346) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011566)

> Remember the CODECs we were using six years ago?

You mean H.264 (standardized in 2003)?

Re:Nice (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011824)

Just because it was standardized doesn't mean it was in use. MPEG-1 was standardised in 1993, but it wasn't until around '98 that people were recommending it as the de-facto standard for Internet video (it was the thing all browsers could play at the time). The computer I had in 2003 was brand new and couldn't even play 720p H.264 without dropping frames, especially with the decoders available at the time. It wasn't until around 2008 that most computers were fast enough for H.264 playback. A few people were using it before then, but not many.

Re:Nice (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31012114)

Remember the CODECs we were using six years ago?

If you count DivX ;-) 3.11 alpha as MPEG4 ASP compliant which isn't quite true but later DivX/Xvid versions were, we've been using the same codec since 1998 only slowly phasing it out with H.264. As for VC-2, there's no wikipedia page for it, the first hit on google has nothing to do with it, the fifth hit is a blog post from 2008 where the last comment says it'll be a near lossless production/archival codec unsuitable for Internet use. So if you ignore all the evidence to the contrary, I guess you could be surprised but none of the rest will be surprised if H.264 lasts...

Open video (1)

Skatox (1109939) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010788)

I'm against this patent, HTML should support only open standarts

SS H.264 submarine patent (5, Insightful)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010790)

2010: DIVE! DIVE!
It's free, come and get it

2016: Up periscope. Look there's someone using it without paying the $799/Stream licensing fee.
-Arm MPEG LAwyer Torpedoes, FIRE!

looks like a ambush in slow-motion.

Re:SS H.264 submarine patent (1)

BlueBoxSW.com (745855) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010876)

It's Compuserve GIF all over again.

Re:SS H.264 submarine patent (1, Informative)

Fahrvergnuugen (700293) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010980)

Except that in this case X.264 is technically superior to the open alternatives, unlike PNG vs GIF.

Re:SS H.264 submarine patent (1)

Killer Orca (1373645) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011380)

I thought x264 encoders were free? Of course this is only based on the casual observation that many of the videos at certain websites are encoded that way.

Re:SS H.264 submarine patent (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011460)

Hey, don’t mod him troll! He’s right with what he meant.

Even though he got H.264 (the patented codec) and x264 (the open implementation) mixed up.

PNG was a problem back then. Since it could not do any animation. Which was important back then. Other than that it did not have any relevant size or transparency improvements is 8 bit mode, and just was too large in 24 bit (lossless) mode.

Also, H.264 factually is the best codec out there right now.

But frankly, I think it will be just like with GIF: NOBODY will care whether it’s patented. We will all say: “Sooo... Do you plan to sue the whole planet?? LOL.”
I also think, that MPEG LA knows this, even better than we do.
The engineers who designed it, will not get anything from the licenses anyway. They just feel pride when it’s used. Which they deserve.

Re:SS H.264 submarine patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31011884)

So you're saying the ambush will be even more successful.

Re:SS H.264 submarine patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31011360)

Does anyone know when the patents expire?

With GIF they only started chasing it a couple of years before expiry, so it was a hassle, but we got over it in the end. How long are they giving themselves to rake in the money after their "free" period?

Re:SS H.264 submarine patent (1)

Logibeara (1620627) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011032)

2016: Quick drop the FOSS depth charges

2018: The movie MPEG-571 is released

Re:SS H.264 submarine patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31011056)

It was common knowledge among implementers that h.264 was free[*] for some time.
Wiki first mentioned licensing restrictions around 2004 [wikipedia.org] :
Like many other versions of MPEG, H.264/AVC implementors and users have to pay royalties for the use of it.

And anyone not expecting the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) to cash in somehow is just fooling themselves.

Re:SS H.264 submarine patent (1)

organgtool (966989) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011410)

You hit the nail on the head. MPEG-LA is simply trying to fatten the cow of H264 marketshare so that they can slaughter it with charges in 2016.

And for those claiming that another codec will be dominant in six years, while that may be possible, MPEG-2 has been around since 1996 and is still one of the most popular video formats 14 years later.

A lot of fallout (5, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010860)

I've been personally touched by MPEG LA's patent witch hunt. And not in the good way like Kathleen Fent does.

My brother in law is the CEO of a small LCD monitor company that uses H.264 decoder chips. He buys these chips from a Taiwanese maker who in turn licenses the patent for H.264 decoding from MPEG LA.

But MPEG LA has been spamming everyone and anyone vaguely connected to H.264 encoding or playback or even (in this case) sending files across the intarweb. He is expected to succeed if MPEG LA ever takes this to court since the patent is already licensed by the chip vendor and his agreement with them covers him under its indemnity clause.

However this is a really plain-as-day example of how patent trolls are ruining business for everyone.

Re:A lot of fallout (-1, Offtopic)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011070)

All I got from that is that your brother-in-law has been Bad Touching you.

Incidentally, the last time I mentioned notorious cam-ho Kathleen Fent [sarcasta.net] around here, I got Off Topic'd into the Stone Age. Let's see if memories have improved any.

Re:A lot of fallout (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011790)

The MPEG LA are hardly patent trolls. The term is so often applied to "anyone who has a patent and dares to enforce it" when it really doesn't mean that at all.

Re:A lot of fallout (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011840)

The manner in which they are pursuing sublicensees is very much in the pattern of a patent troll.

Re:A lot of fallout (4, Insightful)

onefriedrice (1171917) | more than 4 years ago | (#31012030)

However this is a really plain-as-day example of how patent trolls are ruining business for everyone.

Please don't dilute the term "patent troll." It has a specific meaning and certainly doesn't apply to a patent pool packager like MPEG-LA. Everybody adopted h.264 with full knowledge that it was covered by several patents. This is certainly not a case of some junk firm patenting prior art and suing everybody. Nobody coerced anyone into using h.264; it just happened to actually be a good codec, so it was adopted by the industry. Nor is it "ruining business for everyone," so I'm not even sure what your point is. Your own anecdotal evidence doesn't lead to this conclusion.

Is it disappointing that we didn't have a comparable patent-free codec at the time when people started adopting h.264? Yeah, it's too bad. Unfortunately, no amount of sour grapes is going to change what happened.

documenting H.264 on http://en.swpat.org (5, Informative)

H4x0r Jim Duggan (757476) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010920)

    The MPEG patent thicket is a prime example of the real problem of software patents. If I want to write a video player, it has to play the formats that people encode videos in. The veto power of patents equates to the right to prohibit me, and everyone, from writing a functional video player. I think I already have pretty good info, but there's loads more of this story to tell. Help really appreciated in documenting this:

    swpat.org is a publicly editable wiki.

Re:documenting H.264 on http://en.swpat.org (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011178)

The veto power of patents equates to the right to prohibit me, and everyone, from writing a functional video player.

Yep, that's pretty much what patents are for.

Re:documenting H.264 on http://en.swpat.org (2, Interesting)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011498)

Yep, that's pretty much what patents are for.

Not really. Back in the day, if somebody patented a cotton gin, that didn't stop me from making another machine that cleans cotton which works on a different principle. The existence of the original machine in the market was irrelevant to new competitive entries.

Today, a good deal of software is subject to the "network effect". That makes it just about impossible to operate in many software markets without being compatible with the most popular protocols, formats or standards. If those things happen to be patented, you have no alternative but to pay the licenses or give up, regardless of what new innovations you may bring to the game. Products that don't interoperate with the existing installed base are simply not viable in the market.

Today's patents can be much mor powerful than originally envisioned. They can wall off an entire marketplace, not just a single clever idea.

Re:documenting H.264 on http://en.swpat.org (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31011908)

Except we aren't talking about the complicated mechanism of a film projector and potential patents on that physical implementation, we're talking about patents on a bunch of MATHEMATICS.

It's like patenting Newton's method for solving equations.

Re:documenting H.264 on http://en.swpat.org (1)

BZ (40346) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011536)

Thing is... the H.264 patents are method patents, not software patents.

And the methods used seem eminently patentable to me: novel, non-obvious, etc, etc.

The only issue is that the setup doesn't play well with cases where the marginal unit cost of an encoder or decoder is very close to 0. This is not a software-specific problem, per se; if we had star-trek-like synthesizers available for physical items it would be a problem there too.

Re:documenting H.264 on http://en.swpat.org (1)

Grond (15515) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011706)

Right, that's why there are no functional video players that support H.264. Except for Windows Media Player, which comes free with Windows. And Quicktime/iTunes, which comes free with OS X and are free for Windows. And VLC, which is free and usually comes free with Linux distributions. And MPlayer. And PowerDVD. And Totem. In fact there are at least 20 such players [wikipedia.org] , some free, some proprietary. Every modern OS comes with a free, functional video player and there are several options if you don't like the one that comes in the box.

Software patents on video codecs didn't start with H.264. MPEG-1 was patented, so was MPEG-2. Royalties were sought in both cases. That didn't stop free and open source encoders and decoders from being produced, and nobody got sued or shut down.

The existence of a patent does not mean that the patent will be enforced in all cases. Patent owners, like other property owners, ignore low-value infringements all the time. It's generally not economically rational to sue free and open source software projects for patent infringement. There are several reasons:

1. Patents are territorial but FOSS development is international. If you get an injunction in one country, development and hosting will continue in others. Even if you had a patent in every single country in the world, enforcement would be incredibly expensive and not at all worth it.

2. You generally can't get money damages and an injunction--assuming you can get one--would be useless. The baseline for patent damages in the US is a reasonable royalty. But a FOSS project would never pay a royalty. So the reasonable royalty is $0. Lost profits are arguable, but even if you can get a judgment, good luck collecting it from free software developers. An injunction may be obtainable, but the code is out there; you can't delete something from the internet, and development will be continued by others either in this country or another one.

3. The cost is prohibitive. Assuming the defendants put up even the slightest fight it would cost the patentee tens of thousands of dollars to sue. And if the EFF/SFLC/RedHat/etc get involved it would probably cost the patentee's millions and risk invalidating the patents. Even if the patentee wins it's doubtful it could collect enough in damages or increased licensing revenue to offset the cost of litigation.

4. The PR is terrible. Suing volunteer developers is a great way to get a terrible reputation among the very people who decide what formats to use on websites. Start suing open source developers and expect to see IT workers all over the world recommend moving to unencumbered or at least litigation-free formats.

All of these reasons and more are why, despite tens of thousands of software patents having issued over the past couple of decades, the Open Source Software Patent Apocalypse has failed to materialize. It's just not a significant risk. The SWPat wiki has only incredibly weak sauce examples, most of which are merely potential dangers, not actual lawsuits or even threats of suits.

Re:documenting H.264 on http://en.swpat.org (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 4 years ago | (#31012020)

Re:Software patents on video codecs didn't start with H.264. MPEG-1 was patented, so was MPEG-2. Royalties were sought in both cases. That didn't stop free and open source encoders and decoders from being produced, and nobody got sued or shut down.

Back then DMCA was not in existence and ATCA was something the RIAA and MPAA would dream about and forget the next morning. Once ACTA comes to life, They will find a way to kill VLC and anyone who dares to slowdown their cash flow.

Re:documenting H.264 on http://en.swpat.org (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 4 years ago | (#31012134)

The MPEG patent thicket is a prime example of the real problem of software patents. If I want to write a video player, it has to play the formats that people encode videos in. The veto power of patents equates to the right to prohibit me, and everyone, from writing a functional video player. I think I already have pretty good info, but there's loads more of this story to tell. Help really appreciated in documenting this:

That's why there are patent consortiums. MPEG-LA is one, 3C Entity (and 5C Entity) are another, etc. If you want to write a h.264 decoder, you license the h.264 patents, and you're free and clear because your royalty payment pays for ALL the patents in h.264 - it's all RAND licensing. Most working groups for various technologies form consortiums because navigating the patent minefield is such a pain. Instead, you get to license all the patents you need for one small fee. Need to do a Blu-Ray player? Blu-Ray Association will point you to the consortium that licenses (and sub-licenses - stuff like h.264) all the patents needed.

Ditto stuff like RAM, media (DVD/Blu-Ray/etc), communications technologies (WiFi/802.11 is covered by tons of patents), etc. Many consortiums license to other consortiums so you can do a one-stop shop for licensing (otherwise instead of dealing with 1,000,000 ocmpanies and patents, you deal with 1,000 consortiums, which isn't much better, so a one-stop shop means you deal with a 1 or 2).

Re:documenting H.264 on http://en.swpat.org (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#31012176)

Personally I think that we should consider whether the government should be able to exercise eminent domain for patents in cases like this. The purpose of patents was to encourage people to invest in devising new technology, and so I don't think it's horrible to think the people behind the technology in H264 deserve to have their investment pay off to some degree. On the other hand, H264 being the defacto standard while being patent encumbered is an unacceptable situation.

its... (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 4 years ago | (#31010930)

a trap.

not it isn't. a trap is hidden (2, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011158)

This is a rake, lying on the ground in plain sight with red markers all over it and a big sign.

Step on it at your own risk, but don't come crying when the rake hits you in the face.

After the gif debacle, you would think people would learn.

Re:not it isn't. a trap is hidden (1)

DinDaddy (1168147) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011458)

This is the rake you describe lying completely across a narrow path, where to by pass it, you must scramble up some very steep rocky embankments to proceed around it.

Re:not it isn't. a trap is hidden (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011468)

Define "people". Big media providers would win big if the "standard" in internet in is forced to a format that take out any potential low-budget competitor. They WANT that it gets massively adopted,so will dump every kind of content that way. Then you have normal people that just use a browser without knowing about the technology behind. And developers of open and closed browsers, plugins and devices that could show those videos, and of open and close apps/devices that could produce somewhat that kind of videos. And the people that want to show their work in internet.

It is something dangerous. A lot of people won't recognize it as danger till they get caught, and for them is a trap, Some will try to take profit of it (either forcing us in, or putting a trap in the alternate path), others will try to avoid it and try to help people to see it.

Tried & True business model... (4, Insightful)

PPalmgren (1009823) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011050)

The first hit is free.

Chumming the waters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31011222)

Maybe I'm a pessimist this morning, but my first reaction to TFS was that it seems like a insidious (but brilliantly profitable) plan to encourage the adoption of their codec as a cornerstone of the next generation of Internet media. When the patent expires, they'll have a feast of (presumably) successful websites and brand names they can draw royalties and other fees from, who are willing to lay exorbitant amounts to keep their infrastructure up rather than forcing redesign and coding.

Easy way to oblierate anyone they suddenly "disagree" with, too.

You F4il It (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31011236)

By 2016 (2, Insightful)

calibre-not-output (1736770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011300)

we'll be using a different format. Yes, it will be encumbered by patents, DRM and a bunch of other shit we don't even know yet - but it will not be H.264. I don't really see how this extension of free licensing could be profitable to them.

Re:By 2016 (2, Insightful)

aristotle-dude (626586) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011542)

we'll be using a different format. Yes, it will be encumbered by patents, DRM and a bunch of other shit we don't even know yet - but it will not be H.264. I don't really see how this extension of free licensing could be profitable to them.

You are missing the forest for the trees. The MPLA makes money on licensing fees for encoders and decoders. By offering royalty free streaming for a time, the format becomes popular which means that more encoders and decoders are sold which generates more income.

It is possible that they may continue to offer free licensing of for distribution through further extensions. Doing it this way rather than just offering blanket permission to stream give them a few advantages:

1. It allows them to track how many sites are using their technology.

2. They can still go after webmasters who have not registered for the free license to stream.

3. They can revoke a license from someone deliberately distributing pirated video.

They're like drug pushers (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31011378)

"the first hit is free..."

Good enough (1)

otuz (85014) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011494)

This should be good enough to buy some time for alternative codecs. In my opinion the <video> tag should be treated just like the <img> tag, essentially allowing more or less any video file to be specified as the source. How often do you see xpm images as the src of img tags nowadays? It was one of the original image formats.
A few years will buy some time for the open source communities to develop some really good codecs.
Ogg Theora doesn't really have any benefit over mpeg4/h264 except its license. Its competition is mainly avi/xvid and such previous generation codecs and containers.
Let's not hang up on this issue, initial h264 support for video is better than flash and the associated licensing issues of the flash authoring tools and the drawbacks of such a closed proprietary format.

Won't matter much anyway (1)

kill-1 (36256) | more than 4 years ago | (#31011658)

Google will open source VP8 from On2 in a few months, and H.264 will soon be history.

Patents expire before and after 2028 (2, Informative)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 4 years ago | (#31012026)

Keep in mind that the H264 standard and how it is implemented are two different things. Which is good, and bad, as we'll see. First, patents must be filed within 1 year of public disclose in the US, or before disclosure with PCTs. So any information you find will be unencumbered no more than 21 years after it was disclosed. Since H264 was finalized May 2003, the specification cannot be encumbered after 2024. And many aspects of it (draft specs, for example) will be available to anyone, license free, years before that. Probably some parts of it even now (though possibly such narrow, arbitrary steps that no one would care).

So the spec is available before 2028, but how about implementing it?

Well, certain implementations will be covered for many years. In fact, if you come up with a new way to encode or decode H264 today, you can still file a patent. For example: if you discover that by connecting two wires to a squirrel and sending uncompressed video into the squirrel through one wire results in H264 video out the other wire, that's patentable. Freaky, weird, but damn well worth a patent. If you figure out how to do it with a genetically altered squirrel 5000 years from now (hey, you've already go a digital squirrel, let's keep the weirdness going), then you could still get a patent. 5000 years after all the other implementations are free.

What this means is that over time, people will still file new implementations, but the older ones will also be opening up. Come 2016, there might be a way to do H264 without a patent license if someone clever figures out what pieces are free to use and figures out an alternative to the parts still under patent.

Just say no! (1)

woboyle (1044168) | more than 4 years ago | (#31012070)

Just say NO! to H264.

We keep repeating the same mistakes (2, Insightful)

adipocere (201135) | more than 4 years ago | (#31012098)

Streaming video needs an Apache. By that, I mean a very standardized server and set of protocols for delivering files encoded in a non-proprietary, free-to-use, free-to-decode, unrestricted-in-every-imaginable-sense manner.

The source of what has held this back, in my opinion, is that taking giant video files (and you should see how big raw video is) and cramming them down into small, chunkable files which can decode at the end into recognizable images is hard. Hard in the sense of "takes people with a great deal of math knowledge and computer science knowledge to pull off." It's not like HTML, where you are pushing around what are basically text files that you can open in Notepad. It takes a great deal of intellectual know-how and deep domain knowledge to pull this off on the encoding end in some reasonable fashion that doesn't take a lot of CPU cycles.

The few people who can do this take a long time to figure out a new scheme, and they have to test the living hell out of it. You can write a primitive webserver without too much fuss, it's just a specialized server which kicks out text and binary files on command, after all. Encoding video and serving it, though, is not easy. That's why so much goes into protecting the intellectual property; it was not trivial to create. Wade around in the fifteen profiles for MPEG-4 Part 10 aka AVC aka H.264 for a while and realize that this is not trivial. Hell, it had to be jointly developed by two groups, ITU's video group and MPEG. Take a look at Theora -- even its codebase is descended from something that once took real money to make.

If streaming media is to have its Apache, an investment of money must be made in finding these highly talented individuals and paying them to make a new, open standard. And code must be made available for an end-to-end implementation on many platforms, everything from encoding to serving (with authentication fun, to boot) to decoding, on Windows, on Unix/Linux, on Macs. With regression tests and tutorials. Plug-ins to be written for the top, say, ten browsers. And a decoder library for Flash. While this is going on, political battles will have to be fought to keep Microsoft, Apple, and other companies out of the loop, or they'll pull the usual and destroy or cripple the product before it reaches market, just as they managed to poison HTML5's video standards.

None of this is technically impossible, but it will be hard, and it will cost money and political tokens and time and real effort. Can it be done?

No, you can’t do that with H.264 (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 4 years ago | (#31012190)

This should probably be its own story so more people get to see it, particularly those who are defending H.264 or are not aware of all the implications of standardizing on it.

http://bemasc.net/wordpress/2010/02/02/no-you-cant-do-that-with-h264/ [bemasc.net]

Here is the lead paragraph:

A lot of commercial software comes with H.264 encoders and decoders, and some computers arrive with this software preinstalled. This leads a lot of people to believe that they can legally view and create H.264 videos for whatever purpose they like. Unfortunately for them, it ain’t so.

The article goes on to discuss the limitations on H.264 use in actual practice using examples of actual licenses. As I read it, the authorized software used to encode H.264 videos places strict limits on the use of the resulting video. This seems to be a problem not mentioned much in the context of royalty-free streaming of H.264 over the web, and infringement may actually be facilitated by the latter (by making these videos more ubiquitous).

This is in contrast to Theora, whose license has none of the same restrictions, whether or not the video is streamed over the internet.

Note: As I read this, it has nothing to do with the question of royalties themselves, but rather with the terms of use dictated by the actual license, royalty free or not.

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